Twenty-seventh Session

Rome, 28 May - 1 June 2001


Table of Contents

ANNEX Table I: Food, Nutrition and Health Indicators (1996-98)

ANNEX Table II Availability Indicators

ANNEX Table III  Access Indicators

ANNEX Table IV  Indicators for use in monitoring follow-up to other Summits and international conferences


1. The document begins with a review of the current situation with respect to the food and nutrition status in the developing world. The change in the prevalence and numbers of undernourished, by sub-region, since 1979-81 is briefly discussed, after which these are compared for the two most recent three-year periods, i.e. 1995-97 and 1996-98. These latter two periods reflect the situation at the time of and just after the World Food Summit. Except for two sub-regions there was an increase in absolute numbers in seven sub-regions, and surges in prevalence as well as absolute numbers of those suffering from chronic hunger in three sub-regions. Data for other indicators of food consumption, health and nutrition status for the same two periods show that there was a serious deterioration in the diversity of the diet - an indicator closely associated with food security status - in a number of sub-Saharan African countries. This is also the only region where life expectancy appeared to be declining, despite a slight improvement in the under-five mortality rate.

2. The main hunger hotspots in early 2001 are also highlighted. Of the 35 countries facing food emergencies this year, 16 are found in sub-Saharan Africa. But the gravest problems persist in Afghanistan, Mongolia and Democratic People's Republic of Korea, due to drought and extremely cold and harsh winters in all three countries, compounded by continuing civil strife in Afghanistan.

3. Next, future prospects for availability, access and safety of food are commented upon, with the latest available information. Overall, indications are of a somewhat tighter supply situation for the cereal importing countries during the 2000/01 season, tempered by further stock drawdowns and relatively weak market prices. The outlook for economic growth is generally good, with per capita income growth in the developing regions expected to grow by between 6 percent in in the East Asia region and 1.5 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whether these rates can still be achieved in the face of global economic retrenchment, and how such growth is distributed will be critical to reducing undernourishment. Given the experience with BSE in Europe, a broad range of food safety issues are now receiving greater attention in both developed and developing regions.

4. In the final part two special issues are discussed. First the reason for discarding the ratio of end-of-season cereal stocks to global utilization is explained. Finally a proposal for the balance of the core indicators to be used in future assessment documents is recommended for adoption by the Committee.



5. The Committee, at its Twenty-sixth session in September 2000, endorsed a list of seven indicators for global monitoring of food security outcomes in the domain of food consumption, health and nutrition statuses. Available information on each developing country/ country in transition is reported in Annex Table 1 for six indicators - percentage of population undernourished, average per person dietary energy supply (DES); share of cereals, roots and tubers in total DES; life expectancy at birth; under five mortality; and proportion of children under five that are underweight. Data on percentage of adults with body mass index (BMI) < 18.5 is scant and therefore not presented in the table.

6. Over the seventeen-year period from 1979-81 to the immediate post WFS period (1996-98) there has been an 11 percentage point decline in the prevalence of undernourishment in the developing world. This is a significant reduction by any standard. In terms of sub-regions the best performers were East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, South America, North Africa and West Africa. The Caribbean, Near East , Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa actually experienced an increase in the prevalence of undernourishment. The other sub-regions had little or no change in their levels.

7. At the regional level, Table 1 shows that Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest percentage of undernourished, has shown little progress on reducing the prevalence of undernourishment in the last 30 years. In contrast, the two Asian regions have made significant progress, although in 1969-71 both regions had percentages of undernourished that were higher than Sub-Saharan Africa. The situation in Near East and North Africa, and in Latin America and the Caribbean has been rather constant since 1979-81, these two regions having made big reductions in the preceding decade.

Table 1: Percentage of Population Undernourished in the Developing Regions


Percentage Undernourished

  1969-71 1979-81 1990-92 1996-98
Sub-Saharan Africa

Near East and North Africa

East and South East Asia

South Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean





















All Developing Regions 37 29 20 18

8. At 792 million, the number of undernourished in the developing world in 1996-98 showed little change from the preceding three-year average, and the prevalence of undernourishment in the developing world stagnated at 18 percent. The changes in the prevalence and absolute numbers of undernourished between the two three year periods are summarised on a sub-regional basis in Table 2. Only two subregions - East Asia and Southern Africa - actually achieved a reduction in both the percentage as well as the absolute number of undernourished. In seven sub-regions there was an increase in the number of undernourished even though the percentage prevalence level did not rise. Four sub-regions registered a slight worsening in both absolute and prevalence terms. These were Central America, North America (Mexico), the Near East and Central Africa.

Table 2: A Comparison of Undernourishment Estimates for 1995-97 and 1996-98

  1995-97 1996-98
Sub-Region Number of Undernourished People Prevalence of Under-nourishment Number of Undernourished People Prevalence of Under-nourishment
  (million) (percent) (million) (percent)
Reduction in Number and Prevalence

East Asia

Southern Africa









Increase in Number

South East Asia

South Asia


South America

North Africa

East Africa

West Africa





























Increase in Number and Prevalence Central America

North America

Near East

Central Africa

















9. The percentage of energy derived from starchy staples (cereals, roots and tubers) provides additional information about the quality of the average diet of a population. A high percentage indicates a relatively poor diet in terms of diversity and a higher likelihood that large numbers of people consuming these poor diets are undernourished in terms of the total amount of food they are obtaining, as well as being deficient in many of the micronutrients they need for good health. In terms of income groups it is the rich that have a varied diet whilst the poor have to survive on less variety. A satisfactory diet can be had with starchy staples ranging anywhere between 55 to 75 percent of total dietary energy supply (DES) and diet composition can thus vary considerably from season to season and from culture to culture, without detrimental effect on nutritional status. Nevertheless, when starchy staples exceed 70 to 75 percent of total DES, there is cause for concern. Table 3 gives country-by-country information for those countries where the share currently equals or exceeds 70 percent of total dietary energy supply per person. Interestingly, there is often an inverse relationship between the adequacy of the overall dietary energy supply per caput and the diversity of the diet (SOFI, 2001). Poor people whose dietary intake is inadequate, also have a lower variety of foods thus providing less energy and poorer nutrition.

Table 3: Countries obtaining 70% or more of the diet from cereals, roots
and tubers in 1996-98

Southeast Asia

Cambodia (79)

Indonesia (70)

People's Democratic Republic
   of Laos (82)

Myanmar (78)

Vietnam (76)

South Asia

Bangladesh (84)

Nepal (80)

Near East

Afghanistan (82)

Central Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo (75)

Southern Africa

Lesotho (80)

Madagascar (74)

Malawi (74)

Namibia (79)

Zambia (79)

Eastern Africa

Eritrea (78)

Ethiopia (79)

West Africa

Benin (74)

Burkina Faso (75)

Ghana (75)

Mali (73)

Niger (74)

Togo (77)

10. Anthropometric data provide another measure of the extent to which a population has access to and is making good biological use of the food consumed. Malnutrition in children results in poor physical and cognitive development as well as lower resistance to illness. Underweight (low weight for age) among children under 5 is a good indicator of malnutrition in young children. Based on this measure an estimated 174 million under-five children in the developing world were estimated to be malnourished in 1996-98.

11. Currently, over two-thirds of the world's malnourished children live in Asia (especially South Asia), followed by Africa and Latin America. According to World Health Organization1, it is estimated that more than half of the young children in South Asia suffer from protein - energy malnutrition, which is about five times the prevalence in the Western hemisphere, at least three times the prevalence in the Middle East and more than twice that of east Asia. Estimates for Sub-Saharan Africa indicate that the prevalence there is approximately 30%.

12. Mortality rates for newborn infants provide a good indicator of the nutritional status of their mothers, while those for children under 5 are suggestive of the nutritional status of the children themselves. The International Development Goals (IDG) call for a two-thirds reduction in both of these indicators by the year 2015. Actual or projected data on infant mortality indicate progress between 1990 and 1998 in all regions. But the 10 percent reduction in infant mortality in the developing world over the last eight years appears too slow to meet the target set in the International Development Goals (IDG) for 2015. Some countries have lost ground over the 1990s. The Democratic Republic of Korea saw its infant mortality rate rise from 45 to 54, while Kenya's went from 61 to 74, and Zimbabwe's increased from 52 to 73. Between 1970 and 1998, infant mortality differences between OECD and developing countries declined in absolute terms (from 87 in 1970 to 53 in 1998) but rose in relative terms: While infant mortality in 1970 was around 5 times as high in developing as in OECD countries, it is now about ten times as high.

13. It is now recognized that 6.6 million out of 12.2 million deaths among children under-five - or 54% of young child mortality in developing countries - is associated with malnutrition. Child mortality rates in the developing world are also declining too slowly to attain the target of a two-thirds reduction by 2015: rates should have come down by roughly 30 percent in the 1990s, but they declined by only 14 percent. Between 1990 and 1998, 17 developing countries reduced their under-5 mortality rate fast enough to meet the International Development Goal. But over the same period, 14 countries experienced worsening rates; among them Democratic Republic of Korea, where the child mortality rate increased from 35 to 68, and Zimbabwe, where it went from 76 to 125.

Table 4: Trends in mortality of children under 5, selected years, 1970-1998 (per 1,000)

Regions 1970 1980 1990 1997 1998 Reduction 1990-1998
East Asia & Pacific 126 82 55 46 43 22%
Europe & Central Asia n.a. n.a. 34 29 26 24%
Latin America & Caribbean 123 78 49 41 38 24%
Middle East & North Africa 200 136 71 58 55 22%
South Asia 209 180 121 100 89 26%
Sub-Saharan Africa 222 188 155 153 151 3%
Developing countries 167 135 91 84 79 14%
OECD 26 14 9 6 6 30%

World Bank Statistical Information Management and Analysis (SIMA) database.
: n.a. Not Available

14. Because hunger and malnutrition shorten lives, life expectancy is lowest in countries with the highest prevalence of undernourishment. While the long-term trend has shown some improvement, with the life expectancy of people living in developing countries rising from an average of 55 years in 1970 to an average of 65 years in 1998, it still lagged far behind that of OECD countries, which was 78 years in 1998. Thirty-two countries have seen life expectancy decline since 1990. Most are countries hit by the AIDS epidemics. Nine countries lost more than three years. These were Botswana (-10.7); Zambia (-6.6); Kenya (-6.1); Zimbabwe (-5.2); Uganda (-4.3); Kazakhstan (-3.7); Cote dÍvoire (-3.7); Central African Republic (-3.2) and Namibia (-3.1).

Table 5: Trends in life expectancy, 1970-1998 (years of life)

Regions 1970 1982 1993 1997 1998
East Asia and Pacific 59 66 68 69 69
Europe and Central Asia n.a. 68 69 69 69
Latin America and Caribbean 61 65 68 70 70
Middle East and North Africa 53 60 65 67 68
South Asia 49 55 60 62 62
Sub-Saharan Africa 44 48 50 51 50
Developing Countries 55 61 64 65 65
OECD 71 75 77 78 78

Source: World Bank Statistical Information Management and Analysis (SIMA) database.
: n.a. Not Available


15. As of March 2001, some 60 million people in 35 countries were facing food emergencies of varying intensity. Sub-Saharan Africa was most badly affected with 16 countries suffering from exceptional food emergencies caused mostly by natural disasters and civil strife. Despite improved weather conditions recently, the effects of the drought in Eastern Africa were still being felt in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania, where emergency food assistance continues to be provided to some 18 million people by international relief agencies. The number of refugees and internally displaced people due to civil strife continues to increase, particularly in central and western Africa. In southern Africa, serious flooding in some areas, particularly in Mozambique and Malawi, has caused loss of life and damage to property, infrastructure and crops.

Table 6: Countries Facing Food Emergencies in early 2001and principal reasons


Angola: Civil strife, population displacement Burundi: Civil strife and insecurity
Democratic Republic of Congo: Civil strife, internally displaced persons and refugees Republic of Congo: Past civil strife
Eritrea: Internally displaced persons, returnees and drought Ethiopia: Drought, internally displaced persons
Guinea: Civil strife, population displacement Kenya: Drought
Liberia: Past civil strife, shortage of inputs Madagascar: Drought/cyclones
Malawi: Floods Mozambique: Floods
Rwanda: Drought in parts Sierra Leone: Civil strife, population displacement
Somalia: Drought, civil strife Sudan: Civil strife in the south, drought
Tanzania: Food deficits in several regions Uganda: Civil strife in parts, drought

Asia/Near East

Afghanistan: Drought, civil strife Armenia: Drought, economic constraints
Azerbaijan: Drought, economic constraints Cambodia: Floods
Georgia: Drought, economic constraints Iraq: Sanctions, drought
Jordan: Drought Korea, DPR: Adverse weather, economic problems
Mongolia: Economic problems, harsh winter Tajikistan: Drought
Uzbekistan: Drought in Karakalpakstan  

Latin America

Haiti: Structural economic problems Honduras: Past adverse weather
Nicaragua: Past adverse weather El Salvador: Earthquakes


Russian Federation: Civil strife in Chechnya and vulnerable groups Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Vulnerable groups and refugees

16. With some 25 million people in need of food assistance Asia has seen a grave food crisis emerge in Afghanistan, caused by incessant civil strife, successive droughts and harsh winters. In Mongolia, another extremely cold winter has killed large numbers of livestock, aggravating the food insecurity of nomadic herders, who lost millions of their livestock last year. The food supply situation remains tight in Democratic People's Republic of Korea due to drought, economic difficulties and the coldest winter in decades. Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan all face food supply problems because of last year's drought. Altogether, 11 countries in Asia are reported to be facing food emergencies.

17. In Central America, El Salvador's food supply in 2001 will be constrained by the damaged infrastructure caused by the earthquakes that hit the country in early January and mid-February. Displaced people in Chechnya and surrounding republics continue to need food assistance in Russia,. In addition, five countries have unfavourable prospects for current crops. They are Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Jordan and Tajikistan.



18. Table 7 shows seven individual food security indicators that were developed following the food crisis in the mid-1970s. These indicators, while confined to cereals, shed light on the present and future global food situation2. One indicator, referring to the ratio of world stocks to world cereal consumption trends, has not been estimated this year. This is because the FAO benchmark minimum safe level of the ratio, viewed as that necessary to safeguard world food security, can no longer be used in its traditional role. The reasons for dropping this indicator are explained in Section IV. The Secretariat has already started work to develop alternative market sensitive indicators to replace it.

19. The second indicator measures the ability of the five major grain exporters to meet the import demand for wheat and coarse grains. It is the ratio of the sum of their grain production, imports and opening stocks to the sum of their domestic utilisation of grains plus exports3. Based on supply and demand indications for 2000/01, the ratio is estimated at 1.18, down slightly from the previous year but higher than the average of 1.15 during the mid-1990s. On the supply side, total grain production in major exporting countries is estimated to have increased in 2000 but their combined opening stocks are lower than in the previous year. On the demand side, both domestic utilisation and exports are likely to show an increase over the previous year.

20. The third indicator is the ratio of the volume of closing cereal stocks held by the major exporters of wheat, coarse grains and rice to the total disappearance of these cereals (domestic consumption plus exports). Based on the latest estimates for 2000/01, the ratio for all cereals was expected to be 2 percentage points lower than the previous season but somewhat higher than the average for the period 1993/94-1997/98. Those for wheat and rice were likely to experience the largest declines, mostly due to smaller ending stocks and higher domestic use and exports, especially for wheat. Except for the EC and Canada, wheat production is estimated to have fallen among the other three major exporters in 2000, contributing to the smaller carryovers. For rice, a reduction in China’s output after two consecutive years of bumper crops was largely responsible for the expected draw-down of its rice stocks by almost 6 million tonnes. Although closing coarse grain stocks could remain unchanged at 77 million tonnes among the major exporters, higher domestic use and exports were expected for 2000/01. Bumper crops in Argentina, the EC and the United States helped to maintain adequate coarse grain stocks to meet increased domestic and global demand.

Table 7: Changes in Food Security Indicators affecting Availability and Stability



1993/4 - 1997/98







1. World Cereal Stocks as a percentage of World Cereal Consumption Trends

Please refer to the Special Issues Section for an explanation of the discontinuation of the cereal stock-to-use ratio

2. Ratio of Five Major Grain Exporters' Supplies to Requirements**





3. Closing Stocks as a percentage of Total Disappearance of Major Cereal Exporters :  
Wheat **





Coarse Grains **





Rice #











Annual Trend Growth Rate

Percentage Change from Previous Year






4. Changes in Cereal Production in China, India and CIS





5. Changes in Cereal Production in LIFDC





6.Changes in Cereal Production in LIFDCs less China and India






Percentage Change from Previous Year





7. Export Price Movements Wheat (July/June)




   Maize (July/June)




  Rice (Jan./Dec.)




Source: FAO

* Forecast.

& Includes Wheat and Coarse Grains

** Argentina, Australia, Canada, EC and the United States.

# China , Pakistan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

† Wheat : U.S. no.2 Hard Winter; Maize: U.S. no.2 Yellow; Rice Thai Broken (A1 Super).

• Rice Prices are based on the calendar year of the first year shown.

! For wheat and maize, changes in prices are based on seven-month averages only (July/January) compared to the corresponding period in 1999/2000.

21. The fourth indicator measures changes in cereal production among the major cereal importing countries of China, India and the CIS against the trend and the preceding year. For 2000, the indicator points to a reduction by more than 5 percent after an improvement in 1999. China was primarily responsible for the downturn in production during 2000 in this group of countries. Following a string of bumper crops, China’s production fell in all cereal categories in response to policy changes and weather problems. While the output was mixed for the republics of the CIS, the Russian Federation, the largest cereal producer in this group, significantly boosted grain output in 2000 after two poor crop years. India experienced another year of bumper crops, especially for wheat, which could make it a net wheat exporter in 2000/01 for the first time in 6 years.

22. The fifth indicator focuses specifically on changes in aggregate cereal production of the Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), some 80 developing countries which are considered to be the most vulnerable to fluctuations in food supplies and international prices. For 2000, total cereal production in this group of countries fell by over 5 percent compared to the previous year. The bulk of the reduction occurred in China and parts of Africa. Because production in China and India could heavily influence the overall magnitude of this indicator, the sixth indicator measures the changes in aggregate cereal production of the LIFDCs, excluding China and India. Using this measure, the reduction in total cereal output for this group of countries is not as steep (-1.7 percent) as that when China and India are included (-5.5 percent). In fact, many of the Asian LIFDCs had bumper cereal harvests in 2000 including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines.

23. The seventh indicator provides a comparison of export prices for the major cereals. Except for wheat, international cereal prices have continued to trend downward during the 2000/01 season. International wheat prices moved higher since the beginning of the season, reflecting stronger commercial import demand and the expectation of lower carry-over stocks in major exporting countries. However, the overall price increase proved limited due to large export supplies from a number of non-traditional sources such as India and Pakistan. Also, in some wheat importing countries, such as China, a domestic production shortfall was mostly met by a sharp draw-down of stocks rather than relying on more imports. For coarse grains, despite the anticipated expansion in world import demand, ample supplies in major exporting countries coupled with large sales from China and abundant supplies of competing feed quality wheat kept international maize prices under pressure during the first half of the season. World rice prices followed a falling trend in 2000 reflecting bumper crops in a number of traditional importing countries. As export availabilities were ample, the weakness of the market exacerbated competition among exporters which had a strong depressing effect on international rice quotations.

24. Summary information on production, trade and stock positions for major staples is shown in Annex II. Overall, the outlook suggests a somewhat tighter situation for cereal importing countries, with the general supply and demand picture pointing to a further reduction in stocks by the end of marketing seasons in 2001. On the positive side, international cereal prices could remain relatively weak, which would lessen the financial burden of those developing countries dependent on imports. Continued large maize sales from China, especially in the light of evidence of genetically modified (GM) maize in Japan and in the Republic of Korea, could continue to mitigate any upward pressure on international prices during the remainder of the season.

25. Because of weak global import demand, international rice prices are anticipated to remain under downward pressure, at least until mid 2001, when information will be available on rice production prospects in the Northern Hemisphere. In addition, policy measures under consideration in India to boost exports and in Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria to raise import restrictions, would further depress international rice prices. Against this background, any stronger recovery in prices could not be envisaged for at least another season, and that only in the event of a notable cut back in grain production in 2001.

26. In general, relatively low or declining prices of agricultural commodities during 2000 have been reflected in reductions in the value of the food imports of developing and low-income food deficit countries in US dollar terms4, a trend that had started after a peak was reached in 1996. On the other hand, apart from a slight dip in 1996 because of the steep peak in the prices of most basic food commodities, the growth in the volume of food imports5 has been maintained more or less at the same rate throughout the 1990s. While these developments indicate an improved status of food security at the national level for these groups of countries in general, there are still many countries and many vulnerable groups within countries that continue to face severe food security problems.

Table 8: Value of food import bills of low-income food-deficit countries (‘000 million US$)







Total – Developing






of which:






Meat products






Dairy products






Oils & oilseeds






Total – LIFDCs






of which:






Meat products






Dairy products






Oils & oilseeds






* Values for 1999 and 2000 are preliminary, based on estimates of trade volumes and market prices


27. In response to the request for additional information on access to food by the Committee at its last session, GNP per capita data has been supplemented with data on growth of per capita GNP in constant prices as well as GNP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP). Information on income distribution has been presented in the form of the Gini index and the prevalence of poverty measured at the national as well as the international level. Country-by-country information on these indicators are presented in Annex Table III. Data on unemployment has not been presented due to the difficulty in obtaining reliable and comparable data on employment in developing countries.

28. It is widely acknowledged that there is a strong link between poverty and food insecurity since most of the poor are either undernourished or vulnerable.The twin objectives of the World Food Summit (WFS) and the UN Millennium Summit of halving undernourishment and poverty by 2015 are highly interconnected and interdependent. Thus it is appropriate to examine the progress in alleviating poverty in order to assess the situation with regard to people's access to food generally.

29. Table 9 compares results of FAO’s estimates of the number of undernourished with those contained in a recent World Bank study (2000)6 on consumption poverty, i.e., percent of people livling in households that consume less than $1 per day at purchasing power parity. During the period from 1987 to 1998, the incidence of poverty fell in Asia and the Middle East - North Africa. This coincides with the higher performance of these regions with regard to reducing the prevalence of undernourishment. The Bank study also reported that, overall there was a net decrease in the incidence of consumption poverty but this was not sufficient to reduce the total number of poor. The report attributed this to a combination of low economic growth in many developing countries combined with persistent inequalities inhibiting the poor from participating in the growth that did occur, as reflected in Gini coefficients ranging from 28.9 for Rwanda and Egypt to 62.9 for Sierra Leone.

Table 9: A Comparison of Poverty and Undernourishment Data







People Living in households that consume less than $1/day

Share Undernourished

Number of Undernourished

Number of poor






East Asia

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Middle East and North Africa

South Asia

Sub-Saharan Africa





































30. While growth over the next two years is expected to decline from the cyclical peak reached in early 2000 all developing regions are expected to enjoy continued increases in per capita incomes during 2001, ranging from nearly 6 percent in East Asia to about 1.5 percent in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa regions. In 2001/02, growth in East Asia is likely to start moderating and converging towards the longer term growth paths. In South Asia average growth for the region is anticipated to slow to 5.5 percent in 2001/02. Latin America is poised to enter a new phase of sustained moderate growth over the next decade.

31. In sub-Saharan Africa per capita income is projected to rise by 1.3 percent per year over the next decade, far better than the continued decline over the 1990s but only one-third the average rate of Asian economies. HIV/AIDS will have a substantial negative impact on a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which has about 70 percent of the 34.3 million existing cases worldwide and 12.1 million of a total of 13.2 million AIDS orphans. In the Middle East and North Africa region economic activity is anticipated to pick up modestly to 3.8 percent in 2001 and 3.6 percent in 2002.


32. The first sentence of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security reaffirms "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger". The reference to safe and nutritious food expands the concept of food security to include food safety, an issue that has gained in prominence since bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow"disease began to spread in Europe. However, food safety issues cover a much broader range of risks than the one now attracting public attention. A fuller description of these issues, and FAO's recent initiatives to address them, are presented in document CFS:2001/Inf.9.



33. A benchmark range for the ratio of end-of-season cereal stocks to global utilization has been used by FAO for many years to alert the global community of potential and/or impending shortfalls in world cereal supply. The benchmark range has been set at 17-18 percent7. The ratio has only dipped below the threshold during two periods since its acceptance as a food security indicator - during the mid-1970s the ratio fell to 14-15 percent (1973-76), and in the mid-1990s it fell to 14-16 percent (1996-97).8 Although the measure only considers the physical availability of global supplies, during both of these periods it proved to be a good predictor of sharp rises in international cereal prices as well, indicating possible problems related to access to food of vulnerable population groups.

34. While the main purpose of this indicator was to provide a measure of the physical availability of global supplies, for most years in the past it also proved a good predictor of international price developments. However, the relationship between the benchmark indicator and international cereal prices has not always been consistent. During the 1979-80 and 1988-89 periods when the ratio was substantially above the 17-18 percent minimum range, international cereal prices rose and remained high. This was despite the availability of adequate physical supplies. More recently, the ratio of cereal carryover stocks to utilization in 2001 was shown at below the threshold: at a level comparable to those that were associated with the sharp price hikes observed in the mid-1970s and mid-1990s9. However, international cereal prices continued to be depressed during the first half of the season, if not falling in some cases.

35. Moreover, a substantial revision was made recently to the historical cereal balances for China. The revision resulted in a significant increase in the estimates for cereal stocks in China and hence the world estimate of cereal stocks10. This development further undermined the relevance of the benchmark ratio as an indicator of the status of global food security. While the continued use of a benchmark ratio would be possible by re-calculating a new minimum safe range using the revised Chinese cereal stocks and the original methodology, this may not be appropriate. The Secretariat has realized that the original methodology did not directly incorporate features that are more relevant to current market indicators, such as prices, which have a direct bearing on issues related to the access to food. In light of the changes in the international cereals market reflecting increasing transparency in policies and market signals, improved communications and more efficient movement of commodities in international trade, the Secretariat recognises the need to develop more market sensitive indicators to assess the changes in the factors that affect global food security. In the meantime, there are other indicators of global food security that are still relevant for assessing the situation, as reported in section II.A above. The Committee may be assured that the Secretariat is continuing to monitor the situation and to take the necessary steps to identify and develop alternative measures of global food security.


36. For purposes of cross-country comparison and to provide a manageable dataset for monitoring progress towards the goals established during the World Food Summit at the global level, the CFS at its 26th session, reviewed a core indicator list representing a pool of variables that are currently assumed to be most closely related to food security, nutrition and vulnerability.

37. In order to present the pool of indicators from which the final selection was to be made, an extensive review was undertaken of the various indicator lists that are in use or under discussion for monitoring developmental goals in different international settings. They are presented in Annex Table IV and are organized according to the fifteen information domains or modules for the Key Indicators Database System (KIDS) under development by the global FIVIMS initiative. Column one lists all the indicators resulting from the different sources combined. Column two gives the indicators proposed by the Inter-Agency Working Group on FIVIMS, whereas column three presents those used by the FAO secretariat for preparing the CFS assessment documents in 1999 and 2000, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 1999 and 2000, and a draft FAO-Secretariat list for developing indices and for monitoring Agenda 21. The ANDI indicator list, shown in column three has been developed in order to ensure access to data of high quality for monitoring trends in the nutrition situation of African countries.

38. The remaining columns present the indicators contained in the core lists developed by OECD under the "Progress toward International Development Goals" programme and by the United Nations Development Group for the CCA (Common Country Assessment) component in the UNDAF (UN Development Assistance Framework) programme, and by the Society for International Development with support from WFP to monitor factors affecting sustainable livelihoods.

39. The different conceptual backgrounds of the indicator lists are reflected by varying priorities given to the information modules. Nevertheless, some indicators are suggested by both UN-system lists and at least one of the FIVIMS-related lists, which shows a high degree of inter-agency agreement. It may be noted that the OECD list does not currently include any indicators that refer explicitly to the World Food Summit, although several of those included for monitoring other global developmental goals, particularly those of the Social Summit, are very relevant. Following a series of very positive discussions between the FAO secretariat and that of the OECD, it appears likely that one or two goals explicitly related to the World Food Summit will be added to the OECD list when it is next revised. The UN Millennium Summit of September 2000 already also has as its principal goal: "to halve by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's population whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger….".

40. An important factor constraining the selection of indicators to be monitored regularly by CFS is the non-availability of highly relevant data. The Annex Table gives the latest year for which relevant data are generally available from an internationally compiled database, and the holder of the database is shown. However, for many indicators listed, the international coverage of the databases and the periodicity of updating are not currently adequate to allow changes to be reported on a regular basis.

41. At its 26th session the CFS endorsed the seven indicators listed in Table 10 for monitoring food, health and nutrition status. However, it left pending a decision regarding selection of indicators for monitoring underlying factors.

Table 10: Recommended Core Indicators for Monitoring Outcomes Related to World Food Summit Goals

Status Indicator Categories

Food consumption status

Health status

Nutritional status

Preliminary proposals contained in document CFS:2000/2

  • Main food group as % of diet
  • Percentage of population undernourished
  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Under 5 mortality rate
  • Proportion of children under 5 that are underweight, stunted or wasted
  • Percentage of adults with low body mass index

Indicators endorsed by CFS/26

  • Average per person dietary energy supply (DES)
  • Cereals, roots and tubers as % of DES
  • Percentage of population undernourished
  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Under 5 mortality rate
  • Proportion of children under 5 that are underweight
  • Percentage of adults with body nass index (BMI) <18.5

42. At this session, the Committee is requested to review the indicator domains listed in Annex Table IV and summarised inTable 11, and to provide its views on the secretariat proposal that, for the time being, the CFS assessment documents would cover only the domains relating to economic conditions; risks, hazards and shocks; food availability; food access; and stability of food supplies and access, using the indicators shown in columns 2 and 3 of Table 11. Consideration may be given to adding indicators from other domains at a later stage, should their monitoring appear relevant to the Committee's deabate. For each indicator listed, information reported will be either for the most recent year available or the most recent three-year average, unless otherwise indicated.

Table 11: Indicator domains and list of possible indicators for monitoring underlying conditions affecting food and nutrition status

Indicator domains for vulnerability factors shown in Annex Table IV Indicators used in document CFS: 2001/2 Other indicators from Annex Table IV proposed for inclusion in future CFS assessment documents
Demographic conditions    
Environmental conditions    
Economic conditions
  • GNP per capita
  • Growth rate in GNP per capita
  • GNP per capita at Purchasing Power Parity
Political conditions    
Socio-cultural conditions    
Risks, hazards, shocks
  • Number of countries facing food emergencies
Food availability
  • Volume of production, food use, trade, and stock changes for major food commodities, by commodity group and by country groupings
  • Ratio of Five Major Grain Exporters’ Supplies to Requirements
  • Food production index
Food access
  • Gini-index of income distribution
  • People living below national poverty line
  • People living on less than $1 per day
Stability of food supplies and access
  • Changes in cereal production in China, India and CIS
  • Changes in Cereal Production in LIFDCs
  • Changes in Cereal Production in LIFDSs less China and India
  • Export Price Movements for Wheat, Maize and Rice
  • Index of variability of food production
  • Variability of food prices
Household characteristics    
Health and sanitation    
Care and feeding practices     



1  WHO (1998), Fact Sheet 119, Geneva

3  If the calculated value of the ratio is equal to 1, this indicates that the five major exporting countries would have completely exhausted their cereal inventories during their respective marketing years.

4  Despite, however, the fact that the value of imports of meat and dairy products by the two groups of countries has gone up during the same period.

5  Evaluated in terms of 1998 US Dollar prices of the respective commodities.

6  Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion (2000), How did the world's poorest fare in the 1990s?, Development Research Group, World Bank. The World Bank study excluded almost half the population of Middle East and North Africa and this explains the larger number of malnourished people than poor in the region.

7 A description of the original methodology can be found in FAO, Approaches to World Food Security, Economic and Social Development Paper No. 32, Chapter II, pp. 19-37, Rome, 1983. The establishment of the minimum safe level was in response to the serious food crisis that occurred in the mid-1970s, when production shortfalls in major exporting and importing countries combined with unexpected imports by the former USSR triggered a sharp rise in international cereal prices.

8  Based on ex-post estimates. As an indicator, the stock-to-use ratio is an ex-ante measure by which forecasts of carryover stocks are compared to an estimate of utilization in the next season. In an ex-post situation, actual stocks are compared to actual utilization.

9  FAO, Food Outlook, November 2000.

10  The details of the revision can be found in Food Outlook, February 2001, No.1, pp.17-19.


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